Asia-Pacific

Vietnam: Ethnic Hmong 'in mass protest in Dien Bien'

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Thousands of ethnic Hmong people in Vietnam are holding a protest calling for autonomy in a rare outbreak of unrest, a local official tells the BBC.

The district administrator told the BBC the protesters had kidnapped a group of local officials during the unrest.

Soldiers have been drafted in from neighbouring areas in the remote Dien Bien province.

It is unclear whether those taken captive have been released, or whether there are any casualties.

The Dien Bien region is one of Vietnam's poorest areas, with Hmong people living on less than $100 (£60) a year. It is also remote and mountainous, making it difficult to verify reports.

The demands of the protesting Hmong - who are mostly Christians - include more religious freedom, better land rights and more autonomy.

Local administrator Giang A Dinh - who is himself Hmong - told the BBC's Vietnamese service that many compromises had been made to try to accommodate their requests but the protest had continued.

Vietnam's communist rulers keep a tight control on dissent and protests of any kind are extremely rare.

Analysts say the central government in Hanoi will be furious - and its most likely response will be to remove the administrator.

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